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Now the days are getting longer, and the weather is warming up, it’s the perfect opportunity to plan some fun days out with the family. But when it comes to looking for an entertaining activity for the children, it can feel very overwhelming – and expensive – trying to plan something that everyone will love.
The great thing about this time of year is you don’t have to spend a fortune. There are loads of free and inexpensive activities that are fun for the whole family, so you can save your money for the things you really love.
To help us come up with a list of tried-and-tested family days out, we searched out Mumsnet forums for ideas from parents themselves. Knowing how expensive it can be to entertain a family, we made sure we included a range of ideas that cater for all budgets as well as a variety of interests.
Here are the eight best family days out for you to try this spring:
1. Plan a scavenger hunt
“I have a scavenger hunt sheet that I laminated and cut up and put on a key ring about two kids ago and it still gets used. Have torches and magnifying glass with you.” Gibbonsgibbonsgibbons
The great thing about a scavenger hunt is you can do it anywhere. You can send your children on an insect hunt in the garden, a plant hunt in the park or a nature hunt in the woods, and it not only keeps them busy but helps them to expand their knowledge. It’s also a great way of getting the kids out of the house.
You can be really creative with a scavenger hunt too, adapting it to your family’s interests and your surroundings, and you can give everyone a sheet of paper with things to look out for or write clues for them to follow. There are plenty of free print outs from resources online, such as these tick sheets from the Woodland Trust. The best thing about this activity is it's free!
Look around your local area and you could save yourself some planning by finding a local scavenger hunt, such as special summer holiday events, where the children may be rewarded for finding all the objects.
2. Go to the races
Horse racing isn’t just for ladies and fancy hats, it’s a day that the whole family can enjoy. Not only can children get to experience the thrill of watching a horse race but there’s a host of other fun activities they can enjoy too.
The Cazoo Derby is the greatest flat race in the world and this year it forms part of Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend. Buy a ticket to the Jubilee Family Festival and children’s entertainers, The Flying Seagull Project, will be on hand to keep all ages entertained. As well as fairground rides like a Helter Skelter, Carousel and Big Wheel.
The main stage will be hosted by children’s TV favourites Radzi Chinyanganya and Kerry Boyne, with performances from Big Fish Little Fish, Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure and many more. Children can also have fun getting lost – and found again! – in a maze as well as playing garden games.
Other fun – and daring - activities include a zipwire and bungee trampoline. The little ones can get their faces painted too, while there are massage angels on hand for parents and big screens so you don’t miss any of the action from the track. There’ll also be the opportunity to learn more about the work of racing’s leading charities and to put your jockey skills to the test on an Equiciser.
With a host of tasty food and drink offerings, it’s a day out the whole family will enjoy. Tickets are available for £25 for adults and under 18s go free!
3. Take a steam train ride
“There’s also the Bure Valley railway which is a smallish steam train departing from Wroxham which is the main broads village. You could combine a trip on the train with a walk around Wroxham which has shops and restaurants and lots of boats to see.” CoolShoeshine
Even if you don’t have a Thomas fan in the family, a steam train ride is a great opportunity for you to see more of Britain’s beautiful countryside and coastlines.
From one of the greatest Heritage railways in Britain, the North Norfolk Railway, to the North York Moors Railway in North Yorkshire, these steam train experiences offer a great way to explore our country’s stunning scenery. Routes can take you to restored railway stations, stopping off to explore pretty towns along the way, while discovering the history behind steam locomotives. Train fans will especially love hearing the train whistle as it arrives into the station!
4. Go orienteering
“Orienteering? There are loads of fixed courses where you print out the map before you go. Easy and free.” StitchInTimeSavesNine
Give your child a map to follow and let them learn navigation skills while getting active and exploring the outdoors. Orienteering involves navigating a series of checkpoints, which could be in the form of posts or plaques, in forests, parks and green spaces across the UK.
You can find permanent orienteering courses in both city centres and rural areas. The only tools you’ll need to get started are a compass and a map, which you can find at resources like Go Orienteering and British Orienteering. This activity is great for keeping active and helping children learn map reading skills and builds cognitive skills like decision making.
It’s a fun way of exploring new areas and you can add a competitive challenge to it and see who completes it first. Geocaching, in which you use the app and/or a GPS device to navigate to hidden containers called geocaches, has become more popular in recent years especially during the pandemic, but as this relies on using a device children won’t gain map reading skills.
5. Hire a rowing boat
“Take a rowing boat out on Thorpeness Mere, take a picnic and eat it bobbing about - so restful.” Lovely234
Take to the water this spring and enjoy a fun boat trip with your family. Whether it’s rowing around a park lake in London or meandering along a river through Oxford, hiring a boat will offer a gentle ride across the water while providing plenty of laughs as you try to get to grips with the oars.
If you’re on holiday or on a day trip, it’s a great way to explore the area and check out the picturesque views that line the water. Prices will vary depending on location.
6. Go fruit picking
“Fruit or veg picking might work for all three at that age, and be containable but give the older ones some space.” PiffleWiffleWoozle
Find your nearest PYO (Pick Your Own) farm and fill your wheelbarrow with as much fruit and veg as you can find. It’s a fun activity to do during the warmer months and a great way of living a greener lifestyle as you’re picking up the produce straight from the source.
You can find PYO farms in city centres and rural areas, where you can pick everything from strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants straight from the stem, and dig up vegetables such as potatoes, runner beans and carrots for the ground. What better way for children to learn about where food comes from while also shopping for local, fresh produce. It’s a relatively low cost activity as you tend to pay for whatever you pick, but some farms may charge an entrance fee.
7. Watch some aeroplanes
“Manchester Airport Viewing Park. On a nice day we take a picnic and sit there for hours watching the planes come and go.” SospanFrangipan
You don’t have to be a hardened plane spotter to enjoy the thrill of aeroplanes roaring over your head as they take off and land on a busy runway.
Manchester Airport has a dedicated Runway Visitor Park catering just for this, with lots of stuff for families to do including a play area, café, shop and toilets. There’s also the chance to see a Concorde plane, RAF Nimrod and a retro Trident on display in the visitor centre indoors as well. All you have to do is pay for the car park.
Birmingham Airport also has a dedicated viewing area, and you should be able to find good viewing spots on the roads or fields near most major airports. Take a picnic along to nibble on while you watch the planes flying over - be warned though, you may get holiday fever!
8. Cuddle some lambs
During spring it’s lambing season in the UK and that means you can see some cute baby sheep. Lambing season actually starts around November but the birth rate of lambs peaks in the springtime.
Some farms offer the chance to get up close with the animals, helping feed them and maybe even get the chance to see a lamb born. Children get to have fun with these cute baby animals and it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about the lambing process. If you want to get the full experience, some locations also have accommodation where you can stay and help out on the farm.
About The Jockey Club
The 'thrill of the hill' can only mean one thing - The Cazoo Derby.
The Cazoo Derby is the greatest flat race in the world and this year it will be celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee as it forms part of Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend. Once you’ve bought a ticket to the Jubilee Family Festival (no charge for Under 18s) at The Derby, the non-stop fun and entertainment is completely free.
Hosted by Children’s TV favourites Radzi Chinyanganya and Kerry Boyne, main stage performances include Big Fish Little Fish, Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure and Raymond & Mr Timpkins and Boggle Beats. The Flying Seagull Project will also be providing non-stop action throughout the day, leaping from stage to play-space for a full-throttle experience of Seagull fun. Imagine traditional fun with a twist that caters for all ages from pram to Nan!
The whole family will be able to ride the Helter Skelter, Carousel, Big Wheel or the more daring zipwire. There’ll also be the opportunity to learn more about the work of racing’s leading charities and to put your jockey skills to the test on an Equiciser!
Family fun and entertainment on the day include:
- Giant Screens so you don’t miss any action from the track
- Stage performances
- Live Music
- Helter Skelter
- Big Wheel
- Bungee Trampoline
- Garden Games
- Face painting
- Massage angels for the parents
- Roaming entertainment
- Food village with ice cream, Pimms, Prosecco and more.
With a host of tasty food and drink offerings, or bring your own picnic, it’s a day out the whole family will enjoy. Tickets are available for £25 for adults and under 18s go free!